I invite you to open your Bibles to the small letter of Paul to Philemon. We’re entering into the 3rd message of 4 in this series, and by now I hope most of you have seen that though small, the letter to Philemon is a crystal clear picture of what the gospel is and what it brings about within is…therefore this letter is incredibly important to us.
I want to begin today with the concept of ‘rejection.’ Anyone here ever been rejected? I mean really, fully, and entirely rejected. Maybe it was by an authority figure such as a parent, coach, or a boss…maybe it was by a family member or close friend…maybe it was a member of the opposite sex. I think at one point or another in life we’ve all been there. My experience has taught me that rejection seems to feel the worst when it comes as a surprise by someone we’d never expect it to come from. There’s a good reason why people describe rejection as being “stabbed in the back” because when you or something you’ve said or something you’ve done is rejected you can almost feel the betrayal (treachery), you can almost see the faces of your peers disregarding you, counting you as useless, and casting you out as worthless and no…longer…welcome.
Rejection is something, which sadly, is felt too often not outside the Church of Jesus Christ but inside it by men and women who think that in order to be a true Christian you have to look entirely respectable, have it all together, and never break the rules. When I first became a Christian a college I felt this when I stepped into church for the first time in years. I didn’t know what the “rules” as it were and from it many people who’d been believers for years made me feel like I was an outsider.
Think about where we’ve been in Philemon over these past 2 weeks. A runaway slave out on the loose, somehow meeting up with Paul while he’s in prison for preaching the gospel, becomes converted under Paul’s ministry, and heads back home to be reconciled with his master because the gospel demands it. Talk about worry and fear of rejection! The words of v17-20 would have been soothing to Onesimus and are soothing today for any sinner who reads these words. Hear them again: (read v17-20)